Climate change made severe storms and flooding in winter 2013 and early 2014 more likely, according to new research.

A team of climate scientists led by researchers at Oxford University found that greenhouse gas emissions increased the risk of the once-a-century wet January in 2014 by 43 per cent, as the warming climate holds larger quantities of moisture, which leads to heavier rainfall.

Among the worst-affected areas were the Thames Valley in the South East, Somerset, Devon, Dorset and Cornwall.

This first-of-its-kind study looked at the period from start to finish, taking in atmospheric circulation, rainfall, river flow, inundation, and properties at risk.

About 5,000 homes and businesses across the UK were affected and losses ran to more than £450m.

Lead author Dr Nathalie Schaller of Oxford University's Department of Physics said: "We found that extreme rainfall, as seen in January 2014, is more likely to occur in a changing climate.

"This is because not only does the higher water-holding capacity lead to increased rainfall, but climate change makes the atmosphere more favourable to low-pressure systems bringing rain from the Atlantic across southern England."

The research made use of the weather@home citizen-science project, part of Oxford’s climate modelling experiment, to model possible weather for January 2014.

In addition, hydrological modelling of the Thames river catchment showed that the changes in atmospheric circulation and precipitation caused higher peak 30-day river flow, while flood risk mapping revealed a small increase in flood risk for properties in the Thames catchment.

Co-author Dr Friederike Otto, a senior researcher at Oxford's Environmental Change Institute and scientific coordinator of, said: "For the first time ever, this study doesn't stop at rainfall and river flow but attributes the change in risk from the meteorology down to the direct impact of flooded houses in the river catchment zones."

Co-author Dr Alison Kay, from the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, said: "Our hydrological modelling suggests that the increased likelihood of extreme rainfall arising from man-made climate change gives a more modest increase in extreme flows in the River Thames.

"This highlights the importance of applying hydrological models in order to include the role of the landscape in transforming rainfall into river flows and floods."